Oftentimes it’s the simplest ingredients that produce the best dishes. For example, a juicy garden-fresh tomato, a hunk of creamy mozzarella cheese and a sprinkle of basil are all you need to make my favorite Italian salad, the caprese.
Insalata caprese. a.k.a caprese salad, is an antipasto or first course near and dear to many Italian and Italian-American hearts. For one, this salad has all the colors of the Italian flag represented, so much so that it’s often called insalata tricolore, or tri-colored salad. Furthermore, its main ingredients are all staples in the Italian kitchen—tomatoes, cheese, basil and olive oil.
I had a delectable rendition of this salad a few weeks ago at a lovely Italian restaurant called Piccolo Sogno here in Chicago. Although Piccolo charged $13 for the plate, it was worth every bite because the cheese, tomatoes and olive oil were all top-notch. In fact, it was quite possibly the best caprese I’ve ever had. Not to mention that when I introduced myself to the head chef, he knew who I was! Now, that’s service! Who ever said Twitter didn’t get you places? But I digress. Take one of those tomatoes your neighbor left on your porch and make this salad. There’s no way you’ll be disappointed.
This simple salad is great any time of year, but it’s really amazing with garden-fresh tomatoes and Mozzarella di Bufala (buffalo mozzarella) if you can find it at your local cheese shop or supermarket. Using the highest quality ingredients you can find will pay off here. Serves 4-6. Click here for a print copy of this recipe.
2 very ripe tomatoes, sliced ¼-in. thick
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced ¼-in. thick
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
¼ c. chopped fresh basil leaves
Balsamic vinegar, for garnish
Arrange salad. Alternate one slice of tomato with one slice of mozzarella in a circular pattern on a platter. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil over the salad and sprinkle the basil over top. Put a splash of balsamic in the center of the tomato-mozzarella ring, or serve on the side for dipping.